COMPACT - Comparative Analysis of Conspiracy Theories
Comparative Analysis of Conspiracy Theories (COMPACT) is an European research/action network "on the causes, manifestations and effects of conspiracy theories" in order to develop an effective response to them, in cooperation with security services.
The two leaders of the Action are German professors in American Studies, which point to one of the biases of the project, an identification with the US establishment. Stating that conspiracy theories are "fuelling tensions between nations", it points to the project's one-eyed view of the world, where theories that concern methods of US power dominance and war ruses are marked as "conspiracies" and should be suppressed, while theories coming from US power centers, like Russiagate, are regarded as straight facts.
Defining conspiracy theories as "the belief that events are secretly manipulated behind the scenes by powerful forces", the action network works in three broad areas: the manifestations and modes of transmission of conspiracy theory in different historical and cultural contexts; the variety of actors and audiences involved in the production and consumption of conspiracy theories; and the psychological and cultural causes and political consequences of belief in conspiracy. According to them, "empirical studies have shown that it is difficult to reach hardened conspiracy theorists with conclusive counterarguments", therefore it is "it is particularly important to address young people and educate them about conspiracy theories, their mechanisms and dangers."
It also declares, in a way that became handy during COVID-19, that "some conspiracy theories may be harmless entertainment or a sign of healthy scepticism, but others are dangerous because they fuel racism, nationalism or terrorism. They can lead to political disengagement, distrust of the media, and, in the case of climate change and vaccination programmes, loss of faith in medical and scientific authorities.
The program is led by Action Chair Peter Knight, a professor of American Studies at Manchester University and visiting professor at the Centre for the Arts in Society at the University of Leiden., and Action Vice Chair Michael Butter, a professor of American Literature and Cultural History at the University of Tübingen in Germany.
Professor in American Studies Michael Butter has written a book on conspiracy theories Nichts ist, wie es scheint. With apparent lack of self-irony, he presents financial interests as a common motive behind the formation and spread of conspiracy theories - as opposed to conspiracy theory research, which definitely has large EU/national government funding. He also mentions prestige incentives. The German edition of Wikipedia and the mainstream press quotes him extensively to define who are conspiracy theorists. Targets are people who too openly discuss power structures, like history professor Daniele Ganser (his work is a "simulation of science"), professor in psychology Rainer Mausfeld and journalists Ken Jebsen and Hermann Ploppa.
The Action aims at equipping its major stakeholders with robust knowledge and strategies to understand and counter accusations of conspiracy directed against them or others. It thus will reach out and collaborate with scientists, politicians, journalists, NGOs and educators.
The stakeholder that need protection are some "that operate throughout Europe such as the East StratCom Task Force, national security agencies but also NGOs or journalists whose work concerns the regional level. Some stakeholders representing NGOs or Think Tanks have been to more than one Action meeting, some have even joined the Action."
COMPACT is funded by the European Union through the The European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST)program. COST funding intends to complement national research funds, and is exclusively dedicated to cover collaboration activities, such as workshops, conferences, working group meetings, training schools, short-term scientific missions, and dissemination and communication activities.
One reason for the EU giving them money is hinted at in their description, "not least because the EU itself is often viewed as a vast conspiracy", hence the EU might fund the project to whitewash its antidemocratic image.